Recipe: Steamed Mussels in Garlic, Tomato Broth

In the soju bars of Korea, there's a common anjoo (or side dish) that's often listen on the menu of mussel soup (honghabtang or "홍합탕"). It's a simple one really, of mussels that's cooked with broth and copious amounts of MSG which often pairs well with soju. Except I'm neither a big fan of the soup nor soju (makgeolli or beer please :]).

But a few months back I was in a joint in my hood for a reunion with an old friend in town when we ordered a spicy tomato and mussel stew that was on their menu. Not really hungry since we had all eaten, we ordered it on a whim but I was rather taken back when I first tried it- the spicy and savory tomato-based stew was just fantastic with the meaty mussels and I couldn't help but wish there was a nice crusty loaf of bread to dip and eat with the stew.

Even after some months had passed, I couldn't get that dish off my mind until one day, while at my local grocery market, I saw a big batch of large and fresh mussels (still gaping) and I took it as a sign from the Heavens that this was the day to give it a go.

To be honest, it was a bit intimidating at first as this was my first time cooking with mussels and I wasn't quite sure if I was prepared for the prepping beforehand. However SeriousEats proved, as always, a reliable help in times such as these and I followed their instructions for the cleaning and prepping process which proved a cinch.

You know what else proved a cinch? This dish. Seriously, I can't believe how fast and easy this was to make while the results were off the board. To make sure I wasn't speaking with a bias about the results of my own cooking when I first made this dish I tested it on my roommate who plowed through without hesitation. In fact, we both enjoyed it so much that we got together the next day with the leftover batch and added some noodles to it to polish it off in two consecutive nights in a row. Already looking forward to the next time I can have this dish!

Steamed Mussels in Garlic and Tomato Broth

Makes about 4 servings

You'll need:
- 2 kg of fresh Mussels
- 3-4 cups of your favorite Tomato Sauce (I like to have a lot of broth but feel free to scale down)
- 1 cup of dry White Wine or Vodka
- 1 Tomato, chopped (sometimes I substitute with 1/2 a cup of chopped Cherry Tomatoes)
- 1/2 tbsp of minced Garlic
- 1 Lemon, cut in half
- 1 bunch of Parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp of dried herbs)
- 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on your taste)
- Salt and fresh ground Pepper
- 1 tsp of your favorite Hot Sauce (optional and add more or less depending on your taste. I used Tabasco)
- 1 cup of Chickpeas (optional)

1. The step that probably takes the most time and effort is the cleaning and washing of the mussels. But once that's done, set them aside. Again, follow these instructions if you're not sure how to clean and prepare the mussels.

2. Heat up a wide and heavy bottom pot with a good glug or two of olive oil and heat it up gently over low-medium heat. This is to ensure the minced garlic doesn't burn.

3. Add in the minced garlic and stir fry it for a minute or two to let the oil and garlic combine. The low heat will ensure your garlic doesn't burn.

4. Add in the halved cherry tomatoes and cooked (or canned and drained) chickpeas, if you choose to add the chickpeas that is. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add a pinch of salt and stir and cook for another 3 minutes.

5. Add in the white whine (or vodka) and then add your mussels in the pot before squeezing your lemon over everything. Give it a mix or two before shutting the lid on your pot. Continue cooking for 5-6 minutes or until your mussels have opened.

6. After those few minutes, your mussels should have all opened up. If they're still clamped up, put the lid back on and cook until most or all are opened up.

7. Add your favorite tomato sauce as well as the red pepper flakes and hot sauce-if you choose to add the latter two ingredient- and stir everything. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for another 6-8 minutes or so, giving all the mussels a stir once or twice in between. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the broth with salt and give it a crack of fresh pepper and sprinkle of the herbs before turning off the heat and serving.

This dish pairs well with a nice green salad but not putting out a nice crusty loaf of bread is blasphemous. Have plenty of thick bread slices on hand to dip or spoon on the sauce and mussels on top.

Even after eating our fill, there was still a lot of leftovers so the next day I added some chopped vegetables and cooked noodles to the pot, cooked it for a few minutes and then gave it a generous dusting of grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes to make it an easy leftover-turned-pasta dish. If you're a fan of the noodles, you can easily just make this a mussel-based tomato sauce for your pasta from the beginning!


  1. Amazing ingredients combo! It taps into my taste buds, particularly with the addition of spaghettis and parmesan : )

    1. Thanks! It's quickly become a favorite for me too. And yes, I agree the addition of pasta and cheese makes it all the more better :D


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